After relocating more than 20 times in my career, we moved to the Bay Area for my last job. I’m from California and wanted to come back, but I turned it down twice. I was in my late 50s and most people my age are moving in the other direction. But I needed the job. My husband and I did the math, and we finally said whatever, we’ll buy a house we can never pay off in our lifetime and then move again when I ultimately retire.
I remember making the decision – cracking open a beer and taking that first cold draw. I suddenly heard my late mother’s voice, and she said, “It’s OK. You can come home.” I broke out in tears.
My husband and I bought a ridiculously expensive “starter” home south of San Jose, and I rode the bus to Silicon Valley and back every day. It could have been worse, but I do think the commute hastened my retirement. It was 2.5 hours a day on the bus, and I wanted more mellow in my life.
Oh, but we were hooked on California … as in not leaving again. I created a spreadsheet, and we started to search for a less expensive part of California. It does exist. We chose a community in the foothills of the Sierra mountains. The realtor assumed we would want new construction. Perhaps thinking the house wouldn’t have time to fall apart before we did. However, we didn’t like new construction neighborhoods. We liked big trees and old camellias.
Still, new construction was tempting. They were staged to perfection and super glamorous, but the problem is we aren’t. Like us, our furniture is old and well-traveled with stories to tell. I just couldn’t see our weathered stuff in these shiny digs.
We ended up purchasing an 18-year-old house in an established neighborhood with mostly original owners. Kids walk to the nearby schools, and we can hear the band practice at night. The tile floor has some chips. Wood cabinets are worn, and there are dings on the walls and around the baseboards. Our furniture looks great, and the cat is happy.
Dale and I were tidying up this morning, and I said, “You know what else I love about this place? It looks like we’ve been here 20 years and just stayed after the kids left. As though we’ve been here all along.”
After a lifetime on the move, maybe this is what home feels like.